Student Discipline
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Student Discipline: Five Activities

Positive student behavior doesn’t just happen automatically because you have a position of authority.  Like in any arena of human behavior you must earn the respect of those you lead.  Although there are no guarantees that all students are going to behave, you can put the odds in your favor by employing strategies that work for successful teachers and establishing a classroom climate that is conducive to positive student behavior.

  Objectives

  • To explore the characteristics of sound classroom discipline

  • To appraise discipline strengths and weaknesses

  • To assess the disciplinary tone of the classroom

  • To develop a plan to improve discipline

Activity One: Reflections Write a short answer or response to the following questions and statements.  Note: You may want to probe these questions with your mentor or a discussion group.

  1. Identify three adjectives that describe your discipline style?

  2. Describe the tone in your classroom.  Do you establish a tone conducive to good discipline?

  3. Identify three discipline problems you’ve had in your classroom.  In each situation, assess how you may have contributed to the problem or how you could have handled the problem better.

  4. Do you take time to appraise your discipline style?  Do you have a discipline improve plan?

  5. Identify three discipline strengths and weaknesses.

Activity Two: Setting a Tone for Good Discipline Good student discipline begins with classroom tone.  The tone of a classroom sends strong signals to students to either behave or act out. Hence, it is vitally important that the teacher establish a classroom tone that tells students that this is an orderly, mannered, and civilized environment.  A positive classroom tone is built on the following six essential characteristics.  Although these six will not guarantee productive classroom behavior, without them a teacher will undoubtedly run into tricky management problems.

Assess each with the following scale: I do this extremely well; I do this well; I am so-so at this; I need to work on this. You may want to ask students, parents, or other educators for feedback. 

  1. Authenticity. Students cannot or will not respond to an automaton, they want to be led by a teacher who works more from a basis of values rather than rules.  In short, express your humanity.  Be sincere, convey a sense of honesty, and, when appropriate, tell them how you feel.  The first key to positive classroom behavior is to have the students understand that they are dealing with an authentic human being who, like all the people in the room, has feelings, a set of values, and a job to do.

Self Assessment: I do this extremely well; I do this well; I am so-so at this; I need to work on this.

2. Respect.  At the core of all well-behaved classrooms are teachers who respect their students.   Teachers who respect their students take student work seriously, are sympathetic to student concerns and worries, and are confident that students can achieve and be successful. 

Self Assessment: I do this extremely well; I do this well; I am so-so at this; I need to work on this.

3. Identity.  Classroom behavior will disintegrate if the students feel like strangers in a friendly camp.  This means that teachers must work hard to know their students.  Begin by learning their names quickly, learn something about who they are, and express a curiosity about them as human beings.  Students are less likely to strike out in class if they believe that you are connected to their identity. 

  Self Assessment: I do this extremely well; I do this well; I am so-so at this; I need to work on this.

4. Praise.  Everybody responds positively to praise.  Praise can come in many different packages: it can be a simple smile responding to something the student has said, it can be a good grade or a positive comment on a paper, it can be a reinforcing note sent home to the parents, etc.  The student who feels valued in class is less likely to be disruptive. 

Self Assessment: I do this extremely well; I do this well; I am so-so at this; I need to work on this.

  5. Humor.  Humor is one of the most humanizing tools to control behavior that a teacher can use.  Humor can defuse a threatening situation, it can pull a student to your point-of-view, and it can create a classroom tone that is positive and reassuring.  The humor, however, must be inclusive, not exclusive; it must be warm, not biting, and it must be sincere, not forced.  Note, however, that the teacher who is joking all the time or the teacher who comes across as silly, runs the risk of losing credibility. 

  Self Assessment: I do this extremely well; I do this well; I am so-so at this; I need to work on this.

6. Competence.  The best hedge against behavior problems in class is to create a competent classroom.  Competence has two thrusts:

A. Every day  make certain that your content is significant and relevant.  Students must quickly learn that here is a place where they will improve both academically and socially. Interesting content and meaningful methods of conveying that content will engage the students, put them on task, and help prevent disruptions.

B. make certain also that your classroom procedures are crystal clear.  Students will lash out in class if they don’t know exactly what is expected of them, what they are to do, and how it is to be done.

Self Assessment: I do this extremely well; I do this well; I am so-so at this; I need to work on this.

Activity Three: Discipline Plan. Solid classroom discipline requires a consistent and planned approach.  It is helpful to write a clear and easy-to-follow discipline plan.  Additionally, you must communicate your plan to students and parents, and then follow it evenly and consistently.  Design a discipline plan by following the guidelines below:

  • Write clear rules; avoid ambiguity.

  • Where possible, use a specific rule over a generalized one. (Generalized rule: “Students must be on time.” Specific rule: “Students must be in their seats when the bell rings.”)

  • Ensure that your rules apply to all.

  • Write proportional and logical consequences if a rule is broken.

  • Limit your rules to seven or fewer (avoid “authority overload”).

  • Communicate your rules.

  • Have students understand and agree to the rules.

  • Follow through when a rule is broken.

  • Occasionally go over the rules as a refresher.

Activity Four: Discipline Scenario. Below is a typical discipline scenario.  First write down how you would handle the situation, and then ask several teachers how they would approach it.  Are their approaches similar to yours?  After discussing the scenario with others, would you approach it differently?

  Scenario:  You have a student who repeatedly takes an inordinate amount of time to turn his attention to you after you’ve asked for the class to listen.  Often times he continues his personal conversation with classmates, even frequently turning his back to you.  You find yourself becoming increasingly annoyed with his behavior because you feel like you have to nag him over and over to “get on board.”  You find that he holds back the entire class and a great deal of time and energy is spent getting him on task.  How would you modify this behavior?

Activity Five: Discipline Support Group. Find several teachers who are willing to participate in a discipline support group.  Meet with your group once a month or as necessary to discuss discipline situations, rules, consequences, and the use of rewards. You may want to use this group to develop a consistent discipline plan.

 


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